Health departments urge residents to beware of ticks
As the weather gets warmer and Connecticut residents start to spend more time outdoors, some officials in Fairfield County are warning about tick-borne diseases.
And health departments are urging residents to get educated and be vigilant ahead of May — which is Lyme Disease Awareness Month.
There were 1,752 cases of Lyme disease in the state in 2016. Lyme disease, transmitted through ticks, has been an issue in Connecticut since 1975.
With ticks feeding year-round — typically more frequently during the spring and summer months — residents should remember to check themselves, their children and any outdoor pets.
“As we are entering the spring, it is critical that preventative measures are taken to reduce bites from infected ticks,” said Maritza Bond, the director of health and social services in Bridgeport.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can cause fatigue, swollen joints, meningitis and neurological issues.
Most cases in people happen in the spring and early summer months. Those cases are usually contracted through immature ticks, or nymphs, which feed during those months. But the adult tick, more commonly known as the deer tick, is most active from late October through May.
But Lyme is not the only disease ticks carry.
Ticks can also carry ehrlichiosis — a bacterial illness that causes flu-like symptoms — and babesiosis — a Malaria-like parasitic disease. There were 306 cases of babesiosis in 2015.
“By applying a few simple precautionary measures like checking for ticks on the body every day, avoiding tick-prone areas such as leaf litter and vegetation, and using insect repellant, everyone can still enjoy being outdoors,” said Greenwich Director of Health Caroline Calderone Baisley.
Bond encouraged residents to avoid tick-infested areas and do routine daily tick check.
Baisley warned about the importance of protecting pets from ticks, too.
“Pets can carry ticks into the home, so checking pets for ticks will greatly reduce the risk of ticks being carried indoors,” she said. “Pet owners should talk to their veterinarians about using a topical tick prevention product on their pet all year long.”
If a tick is found, dead or alive, it should be removed with long-nosed tweezers. It should be put in a sealed plastic bag and marked with the date and body site of the bite. Ticks can be brought to local health departments for testing.
Greenwich’s health department accepts ticks for testing around $65. The Greenwich Department of Health Lab can be reached at 203-622-7843 for more information.
Bridgeport also accepts ticks at the health departments clinic for lab testing. Ticks can be submitted at 752 East Main St. between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
More information on ticks can be found at the Connecticut’s Department of Public Health website at www.ct.gov/dph/ticks.